Is a knot in your neck throwing a wrench in your plans to be active? Neck pain can make it difficult to sleep, drive, work, exercise or partake in daily life. While the pain is quite obvious, the origin of a “knotted neck” is often a mystery. The process of getting rid of knots in your neck can be an even bigger mystery. Take a look at all there is to know about how to fix a knot in your neck.
The Anatomy of a Muscle Knot
A muscle knot is a stiff bundle of muscle that commonly impacts the neck area. However, these knots are also known to form in the back and shoulders. While a knot is not usually considered a severe injury, an untreated muscle knot can create pain and loss of mobility.
The stiff band that makes up a muscle knot contains a very hard “knob” in its center. This knob is what’s known as a trigger point. The trigger point is the concentrated spot where pain tends to radiate from when knots are flaring up. In most cases, a knot will radiate in a way that makes it difficult to know exactly where the trigger spot is located. For instance, a knot in the neck may radiate throughout the neck, shoulders and head. Typically, a trigger point causing a knot in the neck is located below the skull.
Neck knots can have many causes. In some cases, a knot occurs spontaneously without any clear root cause. It’s also possible that muscle strain and overuse can cause knots. Here’s a look at some potential causes for a neck knot:
- Poor posture when lifting or carrying items.
- Repetitive motions.
- Poor posture when sitting at a desk for long periods of time.
- A poor ergonomic setup while working.
- Underlying joint issues.
- Poor sleep posture.
Lifestyle is thought to be one of the biggest underlying causes of neck knots. Our muscle fibers are intended to contract and relax throughout the day. However, sitting at a desk for long periods can preclude the natural contraction-relaxation cycle of muscle fibers. As a result, those fibers begin to stick together until they form a knotted bundle. Pressure from poor posture and repetitive motions can also put strain on our muscles. As a result, scar tissue can begin to form within the fibers. The results often include chronic pain, stiffness and loss of mobility.
How Do You Know If You Have a Muscle Knot in Your Neck?
The main telltale sign of a muscle knot in the neck is neck pain. However, not everyone experiences pain from neck knots in the same way. This is why diagnosing the issue is more complicated than most people realize. Here’s a look at the common signs of a neck knot:
- A swollen feeling.
- A general aching sensation.
It’s also quite common for a knot located in the neck to radiate in a way that distorts the source of the pain. People with neck knots often perceive that the pain radiates at the base of the skull in a way that mimics a classic headache. In fact, many people only discover that they are suffering from muscle knots in the neck after seeking out chiropractic treatment for migraines.
How Do You Treat a Muscle Knot in the Neck?
There are several approaches to treating muscle knots concentrated in the neck. The first step is to identify the source of the pain. This is where a holistic, investigative approach like chiropractic care can be extremely beneficial. While many care providers are only trained to treat the point of “reported” pain, a chiropractor will approach the situation by looking at the whole body to track down the source of any radiating pain or discomfort. What’s more, chiropractors are knowledgeable about the interconnectedness of muscle knots and radiating pain throughout the body. Take a look at some options for treating a knot in your neck.
Prevention is important if your lifestyle puts you at risk for painful muscle knots. First, a healthy lifestyle that includes regular activity and proper hydration should greatly cut your risk factor for developing painful muscle knots anywhere in your body. If you work at a desk for long hours each day, a special focus should be placed on sitting in an ergonomic position. You should also take regular breaks to avoid scar tissue that can form following long periods of muscle inactivity. Here’s a quick rundown of tips for avoiding neck knots while working at a desk:
- Take breaks to stretch your shoulders and neck muscles frequently.
- Ensure that the position of your screen doesn’t cause you to keep your neck bent at an awkward angle. In studies, screen height has been linked with higher rates of neck pain in desk workers.
- If possible, shift to the standing position at a standup desk for part of the day.
- Avoid slouching even if it “feels” more comfortable.
Integrating light physical activity that ranges from walking to strength-training exercises can also be beneficial for giving your muscles the range of motion they need to avoid atrophy that leads to knots. In addition, stretching with help from yoga or Pilates poses can also help to keep muscles healthy. Next, discover some tips for treating a knot in your neck if prevention hasn’t worked for you.
Treating a Neck Knot at Home
The reality is that it can be difficult to treat a neck knot at home. However, there are some things you can do to try to manage pain and inflammation before you’re able to book an appointment for professional assistance. If possible, try to book an appointment for massage or chiropractic care as soon as you notice a neck knot.
Self-massage tactics can sometimes help to soothe muscle pain. Gently making small circles using your fingers in the area of the knot can help to loosen the “fiber bundle.” If you’re having trouble reaching the area, applying a foam roller or tennis ball in a back-and-forth motion can be helpful.
Some people have success with using a combination of hot therapy and cold therapy. With cold therapy, the focus is on applying ice packs immediately after you notice a muscle knot forming. If you’ve been living with pain from a muscle knot for a few days, a warm compress can be helpful for relaxing the tension that you feel in the muscle by promoting circulation.
A knot in your neck is something that can greatly reduce quality of life. Taking action as soon as you notice a knot forming is the best way to nip the problem in the bud before you experience serious, prolonged pain that makes it difficult to work or exercise. Many people find that they are able to effectively relieve knots in their necks using massage and chiropractic treatments. A holistic approach that focuses on breaking up knotted or scarred tissue is often the best option for creating long-term muscle health and pain relief!